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New city, same shade of gray... but not for a lack of trying.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

SPOILERS: Batman and Robin #23.4


It's a rainy night in Gotham, and some of the GCPD's finest are being lead by three particularly crooked cops, through the sewers, in search of something. But little do they know, while they think they may be on the hunt, Killer Croc happens to be hunting them in the shadows.

While Croc ambushes the platoon of cops, taking every nameless cop as well as one of the three leading them (of course, the black guy dies first), we get a little of his past. First, before he turned into the monster he is now, he was a poor kid with a skin condition, which his unsympathetic aunt tried to "help" him with, by trying to scrub his skin off with what looked to be a pumice stone, or something pretty rough like that. Flash forward a handful of years, and Croc is being stiffed on the freak show circuit, by a ring leader, which leads to him quite literally biting the hand that feeds. Then a couple of years ago, he returns to Gotham, and doesn't do quite well at the crime thing, leaving him to be arrested and berated by Jason Todd as Robin.

Back in the sewer, the two cops who managed to escape Croc's attack find a group of people down one of the tunnels, and ask for help, but turns out, these people are working for Croc, as a little girl breaks the lady cop's leg, then the others cut the lights in the tunnels. The two cops come to a break in the path, which means the one with no broken leg has to jump to scout ahead, and finds one of his former coworkers' dead body waiting for him.

Turns out these three were quite dirty, dealing in Gotham turf by the docks. One of their fellow cops was thinking about turning them in, but that just meant he got a bullet to the head and was dumped in the river, where Croc's followers retrieved the body. The whole reason why these cops are in the sewer is because they got a note saying that someone has evidence against them, and to bring money. They figure it may have been in the cop they killed's safe box, and are hoping to get the key. Back in the present, the cop investigating the body finds the key, and turns around with the good news, only to see through his night-vision goggles, Croc waiting behind his partner... then comes the chomp.

So the last man left goes running, as Croc stalks him through the tunnels, and of course, because the dude doesn't know where he's going, he falls down a bit, and gets impaled on some stuff. In true horror fashion, as Croc approaches slowly for the kill, the man keeps asking what this is about, but Croc doesn't answer.

In his monologue, Croc remembers how everyone in his life turned their back on him, and it turns out, this cop knew Croc as a kid, and was pretty nice to him, one of the only people to actually be nice to him.

So with his abandonment issues, Croc returns to his followers, and promises never to abandon them, for they own the biggest territory in Gotham, the underground, and he'll lead them to glory. All of Croc's followers definitely take part in the kool-aid, and start chanting "King Croc!" so loudly, that it can be heard from the streets above.

END.

The Good:

Francis Portela's art is really good. I see some serious similarities between him and Guillem March, but Portela's stuff is a little less exaggerated and more traditionally structured. Tomeu Morey, who I believe is a studio-mate of March's, also helps emulate the feel with his colors, and I'm pretty confident that Morey has become one of my favorite colorists in the recent years. 

As for the story, I also enjoyed it quite a bit, it was a solid one issue story with some good back story that helped flesh out Croc a bit. Tim Seeley has some experience writing characters who look monstrous, but have a more sympathetic side to them (Vlad from Hack/Slash specifically) and while Croc is a little more... bad, let's say, you couldn't help but feel a bit bad for him after reading the stuff with his aunt, him being screwed over while trying to make an honest living, and especially Jason just being a total dickhead towards him, Croc's eyes in those panels were pretty sad. Also, Seeley played with the theme of atavism through out the issue, and it really pays off towards the end with the horror stalking sequence, so that sort of gave the issue a larger theme.

Finally... Cassie Hack cameo! Approved!

The Bad:

I felt the issue was lacking that little extra bit to really complete the picture. Particularly, the twist with the final cop, I wasn't expecting him to be one of the only people who was nice towards Croc as a kid, but we didn't really get to see why exactly Croc held a grudge against him. Sure, Croc mentions everyone turning their back on him, but I just wish we saw what exactly happened between the two. The lack of that info just didn't provide much more context to Croc's actions. I don't think it could have been just because Croc was disappointed he turned into a crooked cop or something.

The Bottom Line:

To be a good villain, readers have to feel something positive towards them, be it a morbid fascination, or perhaps a bit of sympathy towards them. Killer Croc, when used well, as always been an unfortunate character, stuck with a shitty situation, and this issue definitely plays towards that end of Croc's characters. Seeley wrote Croc as more than the monster in the sewer, and while he's not exactly the most sympathetic character out there, I was definitely left with a little "ah man, that sucks" feeling towards him. Combine great characterization with equally great art, and you've got yourself a pretty good issue.

 UPDATE:

So, some comments alerted me to a mistake I made with this issue due to some mustaches. You see, I thought the cop Killer Croc killed last was the guy who befriended him as a child. Turns out, I think all people with mustaches look alike, and the good cop the three crooked cops killed was the one who befriended Croc as a child. So, that completely negates every negative I found with the issue. It's funny, the entire time I was writing this post, and after my first read through, I thought it was weird that the cop who Croc killed still seemed so young, after the childhood segments being set 26 years in the past. Both dudes did have slicked back hair, a mustache and sideburns though. So, with my mistakes pointed out to me, I've got to do a first for the website, and officially change my score. Since now there really isn't anything for me to complain about...

RATING: 5/5

4 comments :

  1. I didn't get the sense that Hoolihan betrayed Croc. I think the whole setup was to get revenge for the death of his "one armed court jester."

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    1. What got me was the juxtaposition between croc saying everyone turned their back on him followed immediately by the reveal

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    2. I don't think the cop was the one armed guy, I think they were just drawn very similarly. The one-armed guy was the one the cops shot a few days previous.

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  2. Twibbler is right - the one-armed man was shot by Mustache Cop and dumped in the water; Croc set up the cops to avenge Hoolihan because they killed the only person that was nice to him.

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